NEW YORK — Looming playoffs could force an end to negotiations in baseball’s latest drug scandal as pressure builds to impose penalties so stars can still make the post-season.
Monday appears to be the deadline for Alex Rodriguez and 13 others to accept suspensions for their ties to the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic. While A-Rod is expected to get a lengthy ban, a penalty starting that day would allow Texas All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz to return for October.
Major League Baseball is prepared to issue two simultaneous announcements no later than Monday, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press on Thursday. One would list players who accept suspensions; the other would name those disciplined without deals, but who could challenge penalties before an arbitrator.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
Most players face 50-game suspensions for their links to the now-closed Florida clinic, which has been accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
But baseball is threatening to kick Rodriguez out for life unless the three-time AL MVP agrees to a long ban, perhaps around 200 games.
Rodriguez appeared ready to talk Thursday as he was leaving the team’s minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., waving a group of writers to his car in the parking lot and rolling down the window. However, when he saw a second group with TV cameras approaching, he said: “I’ll talk to you guys, but no cameras.”
Rodriguez closed the window and waited a moment, then left without saying another word.
Baseball’s highest-paid player with a $28 million salary, Rodriguez played in a simulated game and saw 31 pitches over six at-bats, played third and ran bases.
The Yankees expect A-Rod to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation, and not being truthful with MLB in the past. Baseball has considered suspending him for violations of its labour contract and drug agreement, which would cause him to start serving his penalty before the case would go to arbitration.
Sidelined following hip surgery in January and then a strained quadriceps, the 38-year-old third baseman hopes to return to the Yankees in a few days.
He is to play Friday and Saturday at Double-A Trenton, putting himself in position to rejoin New York for Monday’s series opener at the Chicago White Sox if he’s not banned.
Barring a rainout this weekend, Cruz’s Rangers would have exactly 50 games remaining before they play at the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night. If he files a grievance, as a first offender, the penalty would be delayed until after a decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. But the lengthy legal process likely would risk his eligibility for the playoffs and the start of next season.
Cruz said Thursday he hadn’t made any decision about a possible appeal. Asked whether he was told specifically what penalty could be forthcoming, Cruz responded, “No, I cannot tell you. Sorry.”
Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta is the other targeted All-Star on a pennant contender, and the Tigers would have 53 games left before playing at Cleveland on Monday.